4 Tools To Manage An Anxious State

Managing anxiety improves performance

We will not always be at our best. If you care about what you do, it’s likely you will have some anxiety when pushed to your limits. I certainly did and I’d like to share with you 4 tools to manage an anxious state. They worked for me and one or more might work for you.

Here’s how I learnt to manage the anxiety that was crippling me. 

If you can have a plan to manage your state when you’re struggling, you can use it to your advantage. You might think this is a bit strange. Anxiety is often seen as ‘the enemy’. Something to fight or get until control.

Anxiety is extremely common, even if the sufferer never talks about. This emotional state alters what you:

  • Say
  • Hear 
  • Understand to be said by another

It does this by narrowing your focus and putting you in a state of fight or flight. The higher the level of anxiety the more narrowed your focus becomes.

If you want to get the best out of any situation it is important to have some tools to work with as your anxiety level increases. 

What Is Anxiety?

Anxiety is an emotional state that:

  • Is always based on what might happen in the future
  • It’s all about you.

Think about any time you start to feel anxious. If you listen to your self-talk you will hear all the things that might go wrong in the future. Here’s some examples courtesy of my self-talk when preparing to do something out of my comfort zone:

“They won’t respect me if I forget what to do”

“What if someone asks me a question I can’t answer?”

“I might get things wrong”

“They might expect more of me than I can deliver”

“What if they don’t understand what I’m going through.”

I think you get an understanding of what I’m saying and I’m sure you can add your own version of negative self-talk.

4 Tools To Manage An Anxious State

The anxiety I was experiencing was crippling me. I would have diarrhoea for two days, hardly slept and didn’t eat very much at all. If I didn’t find some way of managing this, I would have given up on what I wanted to achieve.

I decided to speak to a coach about this and asked whether he had any recommendations. He gave me some great advice which I’d like to share. 

1. See it as a friend and give it a name

Becoming friends with my anxiety seemed very counter intuitive. I hated it. But he said that once you stop fighting it or seeing it as something to be controlled it immediately lessens the internal emotional tension. He said that anxiety can be your unconscious mind letting you know that you need to attend to something.

By naming it and becoming friends you can ask it if there is something that you need to do for an upcoming project. 

Surprisingly, this helped a little. On occasions there were things that I needed to address and once I did this, my anxiety lessened considerably.

2. Shift your focus from you to others

If there is nothing you have left out or have forgotten to do then the next step is to shift your focus. As I said, anxiety is alway related to you. Instead of thinking the worst that can happen to you, put your attention on the person or people you are connecting with. 

How can you make their lives better in some small way? Turn self-obsession into compassion, egotism into empathy

This was one of the most enlightening pieces of advice that I’d ever heard. I truely did care about others. I had allowed my anxiety to destroy compassion.

3. Challenge your self-talk 

Now this is something that I’d never considered. My self-talk had always been a one-way conversation! My mind was letting me know of all the bad things that could happen. Also telling me all the negative things about myself. By challenging what my mind was saying, I was creating a 2-way conversation.

As soon as I did this, fact replaced the fiction that was going on in my head.

Let me show you by taking the comments above.

Anxiety – “They won’t respect me if I forget what to do”

Internal Challenge – “You can have things to reference?”

Anxiety –  “What if someone asks me a question I can’t answer?”

Internal Challenge – “You can be honest and let them know and offer to find the answer to their question. They will respect the honesty and your offer to help.”

Anxiety – “I might get things wrong”

Internal Challenge – “Do you know of anyone who didn’t get something wrong at some stage in their lives? You can reflect and learn.”

Learning to challenge negative self-talk has been one of those life skills that have helped my tame my obsession with being perfect. I have learnt that perfection never happens. Only improvement.

4. Bring your attention to the present and do something

When all else fails this tool has helped with decreasing anxiety. You can’t be anxious and in the present. Nor can you be anxious when you are taking action. 

That’s not to say that you can’t flip between anxiety and action pretty quickly if you are really practiced at doing anxiety.

Bringing yourself into the present can be as simple as looking around you can commenting to yourself on something that is real and obvious. 

Take action by asking yourself “What’s important now?” The ‘WIN’ formula. By asking this question you both bring yourself to the present and find something to action immediately.

It is amazing how the level of anxiety lessens as you do something. If you do nothing other than think about things, anxiety has a field day. It will take over and ruin your life.

The tool of ‘breathing’ is one that both brings you into the present and has you taking action. It also slows your breathing down which helps as you start to shallow breath as you become more anxious.

The next step

These are the 4 tools to manage an anxious state that I have tried out and found to be effective. For me the most helpful is shifting my focus. You might find another one to be your go-to for managing your anxious state.

First of all you need to believe that you can take control of your mind. You also need to be prepared to try each tool and find the one that suits your personality. If you want to have a future that is not governed by your anxiety you will need to put it the work. And a lot of it!

Anxiety takes many years to perfect. It is not going to go away with a little amount of effort. If you are like me, then you have probably mastered the anxious state! It’s part of who you are. 

To take control, ‘WORK’ is the four letter word that you want to avoid but will be crucial to your success.

To learn more about motivational tools through effective communication download my eBook

“Improving Patient Motivation In Physiotherapy”

I wrote this eBook in response to the most common question I get asked and that is “How do I motivate my patients?”

Or perhaps your staff would benefit from training in this area.

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